One sunny morn at Port Royal I first heard the soothing loving melody of “Adelie’s Song” wafting magically from papere’s mahogany brown fiddle. He had surprised me with a special song for my fifth birthday.
“Adelie, my Adelie
Mon cheri petit fille
My love for you is greater
Than the depths of the sea
Hazel eyes so full of glee
Mon cheri petit fille
No matter where you are
May Bon Dieu always keep thee”
Not long after, papere began teaching me his art of fiddling. After learning “Adelie’s Song”, I wished that mamere was still with us, but I believed she listened from heaven.
Memories of my Canadian homeland in Nova Scotia seem distant and though my early childhood years were joyful, my people, the French Acadians , became victims of political turmoil between France and England. In 1755, war ensued and the tide turned against us; we found ourselves devastated, lost on ships sailing to unknown lands in what was called “Le Grande Derangement.”
Horrifying recollections of the Port Royal exile haunt my dreams. Families were separated and homes and possessions burned by British soldiers. My family was not spared from this tragedy. As I close my eyes, I remember the smell of burning wood, the fire light devouring our log home, fear gripping my soul, and last moments with papere. He handed me the brown leather case holding his prized possession, the mahogany brown fiddle. Then his tanned hands cupped my face, kissing my forehead.
“I won’t ever forget your music, papere. I will practice it faithfully.” Struggling to keep my hand in his, it was ripped apart by a young soldier.
“My dear Adelie, we will find one another again. Be brave! God will keep you! ” His words echoed as we were herded in opposing directions.
“I love you papere! Yes, we will meet again!
And he was gone.
I was motherless, now fatherless, amongst strangers and soldiers on the seas. I can still feel chilling sprays of water slapping my cheeks as the ship swayed against tumultuous waves. Even my suede coat with brass buttons could not generate the warmth that I needed. I was only nine. My heart ached for papere.
I clutched the brown leather case that protected my only link to papere and my dear Acadia. I imagined papere picking up his fiddle, smiling, then joyful staccato notes escaping from the mahogany brown instrument. Warmth enveloped me. “Believe”, I kept telling myself, following the path of the copper rosary beads with my fingers, praying silently into the mist.
My belief formed my new life in Louisiana, in New Acadia, along bayou banks, with bountiful waters bringing food to our tables and rich dark soil to bless us with crops. Like the lands of Nova Scotia.
God kept me as papere had prayed. The wonderful family that cared for me lovingly gave me away as a bride at sixteen. My daughter Claire has the deep blue eyes of papere, a beautiful reminder.
Many Acadians were not so fortunate. Five thousand died of diseases on the journey, broken hearts I think. I was one of 18,000 expelled, whose homes were burned and lands confiscated, whose families were torn apart... in an effort to disperse us and destroy our culture, our spirit. In New Acadia, I’m surrounded by my people. Dispersed, but not lost anymore. Once downtrodden , but not destroyed. All of us, flourishing by our faith.
I continued playing traditional Acadian music taught by papere, becoming skilled at composing original melodies for the fiddle. It was my joy to sit out on the front porch along the bayou, immersing myself in music. Some evenings neighbors came by, waltzing to my Acadian melodies.
In the fall of 1771, my husband Pierre and I traveled the bayou waterways to the Mississippi River enroute to New Orleans to visit distant cousins. There would be a wedding and I was invited to play my fiddle for the wedding celebration.
It was a grand evening and finally I found myself playing “Adelie’s Song”, recalling happy times of childhood, watching joyful dancing couples.
“Adelie, my Adelie. Mon cheri petit fille…” , a strong voice sang out from the crowd , approaching me.
Though the hair was gray, I knew his deep blue eyes and tender smile.
“Papere! ” I raced into his open arms.
An Acadian melody played on a mahogany brown fiddle had brought us back to one another in New Acadia.
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